When You Wish Upon a Star: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

While being self-quarantined, we are all looking for different ways to occupy ourselves. I have decided to watch all the theatrically released Disney animated films offered to me on Disney+, in order. Of course I can’t just let that be it, so I will be writing a little something about each of them. 

First up in my Disney animated quest was the first animated full length film released in America, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The film really set up Walt Disney and his animation studio. It started a long tradition of animated classics and revolutionized the film industry. These are well and good but let’s get down to some of the real issues with this movie.

The movie starts by making us read a couple pages from an old story book. In this reading we get a basic set up. Snow White has an evil step-mother who is also the queen. This step-mother doesn’t seem to like Snow White from jump street, though it is never explained why. Though we learn later she gains more hatred when Snow White becomes fairer than the queen. Some people are just bitches I guess. We also learn this step-mother is incredibly vain and checks her magic mirror constantly.

So Snow White lives in this castle with her step-mother queen, but as I asked on the FaceBook, where are her biological parents? Unless step-mother meant something different 80 years ago, it is assumed Snow White’s dad remarried, and considering step-mother is a queen, the other assumption is Snow White’s dad is the king. For the king to remarry, I presume Snow White’s bio-mom has died. Also, a friend pointed out parents in Disney movies are usually dead, so that’s a safe assumption on mom.

Now here’s what I think has happened to the king, and why he’s nowhere to be seen and doesn’t seem to miss his daughter, or bothered by his new wife being such a twat to said daughter. In an attempt to gain all the control of the kingdom, which seems to contain three people and seven dwarfs, she used magic she inexplicably knows to trap the king in the mirror. That sad sack face in the mirror is the king. That’s why when asked who is the fairest in the land, he always picks his sweet daughter and not the jerk ass who trapped him in the mirror.

So the queen’s pride is hurt and she sends Snow White into the forest with a huntsman who is supposed to kill her. But he’s no monster so he lets her live and sends her off into the woods. Snow White is only slightly phased by this as she stumbles across a little cabin. And like a completely normal person she goes in and totally cleans the place to a spotless degree.

Let’s really think about the situation here. A princess’s parents are missing, mostly likely dead; she was almost murdered, then vanquished from her kingdom. She is alone and lost in the woods. She befriends all the woodland creatures, and a turtle. Not sure what a turtle is doing in the middle of this forest. She finds a house out in these woods, and after discovering the occupants are not home she opts to clean the entire place like that’s what you’re supposed to do when you break into someone’s home.

The place is clean as she wanders into the bedroom and sees bed with what she assumes are names carved into them. Most of these are just adjectives but she thinks they are names of people who use the beds? “Oh, they’re names.” Instead of “why the fuck does that bed say ‘Sneezy’?” She doesn’t think anything of it and just passes out on these tiny beds, which is understandable, she’s had a day.

This is when we meet the titular seven dwarfs. They work in a jewel mind. Like precious jewels, not mediocre poetry over acoustic guitar sung with a snaggletooth jewel.. They pull out a bunch of shiny, pretty jewels and lock them in a vault right next to the mine. Then hang the key next to the door to the vault. Which brings up the comedy of this movie. It’s all very gentle and such a product of the time. It’s almost all sight gags, which is great for animation, you have the freedom to really play with the form and over-do the physical comedy. In a way it’s all very nice.

So yada yada yada, the dwarfs are smitten with Snow White as she is the fairest in the land. The queen finds out she’s not dead. Creates a poison apple and a disguise, a disguise of someone who you would never accept an apple from, and sets off to do what the huntsman could not. Snow White eats the apple and slips into a coma that can only be ended by true love’s kiss. The dwarfs put her in a glass coffin and leave her in the forest. Somehow word of the princess asleep in a glass coffin gets out. Again there’s only like 10 people in this kingdom so I’m not sure how the prince found out or figured out where to go. But he does and kisses her awake. After killing the queen and righting the kingdom, though the king is still a mirror, they live happily ever after, I assume. I started to lose interest and consciousness.

That’s the basic story summary, let’s talk about a few other things now.

The animation is clearly from a time past, but it is still incredible, especially for the time. Animation was still a fairly new concept, and animation synched so well with sound was even newer. So to do synched animation on this level was an impressive feat. Even though it’s old and there are some issues, it’s still a lot better than a lot of other cartoons. Animation is something I know takes a lot of time and effort so I will do my best in this series to not shit on it too much. So let’s move on.

I have a few questions about the dwarfs. Are they related? I think they are. It would have been an incredible coincidence for more than one family to decide to name their child or children with an adjective that describes their default trait. Which brings another question. Are those their given names or nicknames? It seems kind of rude to name a kid Grumpy from the jump off. You sort of set that kid up to be that way. Or did you leave them nameless for a bit until these things crept up? How come they’re all adjectives except Doc? (Takes Jason Mantzoukas voice) Guys, is Doc the leader? Do they have a leader? I have this problem where I think any group has to have a leader. I blame mostly Ninja Turtles and X-Men. He gets the head of the water trough, and seems sort of authoritative, much to Grumpy’s chagrin. So I’m calling him the leader.

Overall, I’m glad I watched this. It has been decades since I’ve seen this movie. Sure there were plot holes and issues, but for an 83 year old movie it holds up pretty well. It has staying power for a reason. I hope the rest of these go as well.

Other Thoughts:

  • Why does Doc have that speech impediment? Why does Zummi Gummi talk the same way decades later?
  • The Gummi Bears were just updated versions of the dwarfs.
  • Dopey has light colored eyes, while the other dwarfs have dark eyes. This helps to enhance the childlike nature and naiveté of the character. It’s a nice, subtle touch.
  • Remember when Saved by the Bell did Snow White for drama club and the dwarfs all rapped?
  • Bashful is a weird word. Full of bash? What is bash?
  • I thought about if this was made today and the idea of seven dudes all living together. I think it would be more Jackassy. Because close dude friends in groups of four or more are stupid and just rag on each other in the best slash worst ways. Maybe this happened in Sydney White. I don’t remember that movie so well. I mean I never saw that movie.

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